Dr. Sarah Parcak has been awarded a $1 million grant from TED for her work on preventing looting using satellite imagery.
The looting of ancient historical sites is becoming an increasingly large problem, and one archaeologist has come up with a new way to stop it. According to a report from the New York Times, archaeologist Sarah H. Parcak from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Laboratory for Global Observation has pioneered the field of “satellite archaeology,” using global imaging to catch looters in the act and stop them from destroying ancient artifacts.
Parcak has been working on mapping looting activity via satellite imaging for the past few years. Initially, satellites were being used to identify new archaeological dig sites but the technology has been adapted to catch treasure hunters in the act.
Dr. Parcak led a program funded by the National Science Foundation and National Geographic in Egypt that has gone after looting, which was largely exacerbated by the revolution in 2011.
Parcak is clearly on to something, because TED, the nonprofit organization that works to produce and share peoples’ innovative ideas, recently awarded her with a grant of $1 million to carry out a project of her choosing. She will reveal the details of her project at the upcoming TED conference this February in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Dr. Parcak’s satellite images are taken from 400 miles above the Earth’s surface, provided by Google Earth, DigitalGlobe and NASA. The images are archived, and show the changes in the sites over time. By comparing images of a site from five years ago to images taken today, researchers can get a sense of just how much has changed.
Together with her husband, fellow archaeologist Gregory Mumford, Dr. Parcak has worked in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to prevent smuggled artifacts from going on to fund terrorism.
A press release from TED outlining Dr. Parcak’s work can be found here.